Emotional Intelligence in the Age of Automation

As we discussed in a past article: Artificial Intelligence and the Customer Service Experience, emerging technologies that include artificial intelligence will only have long-term value if augmented with human touch. Coined a few decades ago by psychologist and author, Daniel Goleman,  “Emotional Intelligence” or E.I. will become increasingly important in this Automation Age.
What defines Emotional Intelligence? In a nutshell, it is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Emotionally Intelligent people are usually highly developed in these areas:

  • Self-awareness – They are aware of their emotions and don’t let their feelings rule them. They are willing to observe themselves, and that very awareness brings about positive change when needed.
  • Self-regulation – People who self-regulated typically don’t allow themselves to become too upset, and they don’t make impulsive, careless decisions. They think before they act.
  • Motivation  – People who are motivated and see the “big picture”, are willing to defer immediate results for long-term success. They are highly productive, love a challenge, and are very effective in whatever they do
  • Empathy  – People with empathy are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious to others. They are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others.
  • Social Skills –  People with good social skills are easy to work with and talk to. They make great team players. Rather than focus on their own success first, they help others succeed. They can manage disputes, are excellent communicators, and are masters at building and maintaining relationships.

Emotional Intelligence is especially important for anyone in a leadership role, HR role or customer service role… or any role that requires sensitive communication and a high level of human interaction.

Emotional Intelligence and The Customer Experience

In many circumstances, human intellect, emotional intelligence, and empathy are needed to resolve customer concerns. These human capabilities are critical for customer-centric companies—and will help set them apart in in these times of widespread technology use. As technology continues to become more capable and artificial intelligence more “human-like”, the line between humans and machines will become increasingly blurred.

Customer-focused companies will need to carefully determine the most appropriate circumstances in which to leverage automation or implement human capabilities to ensure the highest and most efficient level of customer satisfaction. Conversations – whether verbal or written – are the main method by which humans still communicate and work to build relationships. Within these conversations, empathy enables humans to understand another’s position and fosters a trusted connection that is critical to the relationship.

On the surface, the concepts of empathy and awareness may seem simple and obvious, but the nuances that occur in encounters between people are quite complex. Good communication relies heavily on emotional awareness, the tone used in communication and how words are spoken. These nuances are what separate humans from machines.

Human Emotion in Business

Companies still need to be prepared to handle various scenarios that require different levels of emotional intelligence. For non-sensitive interactions, customers don’t mind choosing the quickest means possible, such as self-service apps and website portals to get help with a simple question or issue. But when it comes to more complex issues, customers prefer to speak with a real human who can diagnose the situation and respond appropriately.

Especially businesses in the medical, insurance, travel and hospitality sectors will continue to need staff that are highly skilled in addressing sensitive needs. With the fast pace and stresses of modern life, customers want to interact with a person they trust, who understands their needs and will work with them to resolve their concern. They want to have an interaction in which they feel heard and understood. Employees are required to not only be thoroughly knowledgeable about their company’s products and services.  but to be able display emotional intelligence as well.

Augmenting E.I. with A.I.

Emotional Intelligence (E.I.) reinforces the fact that human jobs are not only required, but can serve as a competitive differentiator for companies. Humans’ instinctual capabilities for compassion and empathy will make service jobs immune to a complete technology takeover.
To be successful, organizations must realize the value of human connection and provide technologies that support employee capabilities. By investing in human skills and human-empowering technology – while understanding the significance of augmented intelligence – companies will provide better customer service offerings, increase loyalty, and enjoy overall business success.
To quote Donna Morris, Executive Vice President, Customer and Employee Experience, Adobe,  in her interview with the online magazine CMO:

 “A day doesn’t go by without another prediction that highlights the influence of technology on jobs. However, one thing is certain: We are in a period of unprecedented change.
While some of the best jobs of the future simply don’t yet exist, the need for uniquely human skills, such as demonstrating emotional intelligence, empathy, creative problem-solving, intellectual curiosity, and the ability to adapt will remain important to job growth and stability for years to come.
Ongoing education, exposure to different cultures, developing and maintaining a diverse network of peers, and proactively seeking out feedback will allow you to hone these skills. Regardless of how future technologies will impact the workplace, demonstrating these abilities will serve you well for building a long, prosperous career”

The Empathy Economy

In response to widespread automation, there is a call for Emotional Intelligence which proves our innate, enduring, and essential desire to connect with other knowledgeable and caring humans, whether at home or at work.
This response has developed into a global movement called the “Empathy Economy”. Humans have three core capabilities with which robots cannot compete: creativity, community, and empathy. As we enter the Automation Age, where the speculation that robots will soon be replacing human work is more than likely to come true, these three skills will ensure the future of human productivity. The last of the three, empathy, should be considered the most important.

Empathy is defined as “The capacity for understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objective manner”

Empathy is what makes us truly human — it is our capacity for mutual understanding.
A.I. will eliminate some of our rote and not-so-rote tasks, but it will also create an opportunity for humans to capitalize on empathy. The manifestation of empathy in the business industry is through unique and outstanding customer service, no matter the sector.

As the concept of an empathy economy continues to take hold, it will fundamentally change not only customer engagement but management styles and internal customer service as well, prompting brands to find just the right blend of technology and human interaction. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, technology can actually play a critical role in humanizing the way a business connects with its customers. Companies will still need to place a very high premium on customize experience and interactions,  and can use technology to meet the unique preferences of their particular consumers.
Brands that embrace these ideals will take the lead in growing customer lifetime value. By combining the best of both worlds, i.e. the best capabilities in humans and in machines, the service industry will set a prime example on how a human-aware and human-empowering business culture can help a brand deepen and evolve trusting relationships with its customers.

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Customer Service Institute of America